News Bit: Wolf Tracking Collars Suspended

In 1985 the federal government ordered the state of Alaska to stop using experimental wolf tracking collars.

| May/June 1985

Alaskan wolves have an unusual ally — the Federal Communications Commission — (FCC). The FCC ordered Alaskan state officials to cease using radio tracking equipment to locate wolves for killing.

The FCC issues experimental broadcast licenses that permit radio collars and tracking equipment to be used to monitor certain animals for the purpose of observation and study. Alaskan state officials had been using the collars to locate wolves — individually and even in packs — which were then shot as part of a plan to reduce the wolf population in that state. Biologists estimate that there are 6,000 to 10,000 wolves in Alaska, compared with only 1,200 in all of the lower 48, and state game officials argue that a cyclical "boom" in the wolf population is seriously limiting the size of moose and caribou herds. Opponents of the kill blame the reduced herds on increased hunting.

At any rate, the FCC believes that using the radio equipment to assist in wolf kills "no longer constitutes a research project" and has ordered the state to stop the practice until further notice. If the state does not comply, it could lose a variety of radio-operating licenses, including those for police, fire, and other emergency and state administration broadcasts.

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